MorphoSys and Galapagos’ Eczema Drug Abandoned at Phase II

Development of MorphoSys, Galapagos, and Novartis’ first-in-class antibody drug has been discontinued during a phase II trial after an interim analysis suggested it wouldn’t meet its main endpoint of reducing eczema symptoms.

The drug was being developed to treat the inflammatory skin condition atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema. It arose from a collaboration between Galapagos, which discovered the disease target of the drug, and MorphoSys, which generated antibody candidates for the target. Several months after the pair reported positive phase I results last year, Novartis licensed the drug in a deal worth up to €945M. 

As a consequence of the phase II analysis, the three partners have completely ceased the development of the antibody drug for the treatment of atopic dermatitis. This includes two ongoing phase II trials, one phase I trial, and a clinical study in Japan. 

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The antibody is the first clinical-stage drug to selectively block an inflammatory molecule called IL-17C, and was thought to have the potential to treat atopic dermatitis and other conditions. Now, this potential is not so clear.

We are obviously disappointed with this result,” Galapagos’ CSO, Piet Wigerinck, stated. “Together with our collaboration partners, we will explore the future strategy with [the antibody drug].

The atopic dermatitis market is competitive with approved antibody drugs including Dupixent, which was developed by the US Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Sanofi, and Novartis’ Cosentyx. However, these existing drugs cause side effects such as inflammation around the eye. MorphoSys, Galapagos and Novartis’ drug was supposed to cause fewer side effects than existing drugs because its target, IL-17C, is more specific to skin cells than targets of other drugs.


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